Chris Horner (RadioShack) began the Stage 4 ready to tackle the field.
“It should be a really exciting day. Year’s past when we went over this pass it’s been quite exciting with a lot of destruction. There will be destruction not only on Sierra but also on Hamilton. Both should be very exciting. I prefer the weather to be hot…but I’ll take the weather like it is.”
When asked whom he would be marking, Horner replied, “I don’t mark anybody.”
Horner and his Team RadioShack then proceeded to dismantle the peloton. Horner won the famed Sierra Rd. mountaintop finish with more than a minute to his nearest competitor, Andy Schleck (LEOPARD TREK). Horner’s teammate, three-time race champion, Levi Leipheimer, finished fourth on the stage and is currently sitting second in GC.
From the start, Horner’s team had a very definite game plan. “I think you really have to go back to kilometer 0 and look at what our tactics were. We wanted the break to go away. We were hoping that the break would have a Garmin rider in it. We would give the break a lot of time and we would have two teams that could chase 100% all day long and destroy the field.”
“The idea was to blow this race apart and the team was fantastic today,” said Horner after the stage. “We rode Ben King, Markel Irizar and Haimar Zubeldia on the front to chase the early breakaway. Our guys rode hard every climb. Their job was too ride hard with maximum effort at every climb…the first climb…the second climb…the third climb. Their job was to get to Mount Hamilton with the field completely wrecked. Then Jason McCartney had to drill from the bottom and destroy the field and Haimar was next to take over. We were left then with Levi Leipheimer, Dmitriy Muravyev, Matt Busche and me. That young guy Busche was really fantastic. Matt devastated the field on the last climb, to Sierra Road. At one point we had over 400 watts for 500 meters and that big hit exploded everyone. From then on, I just had to ride hard with Levi on my wheel and take the victory.
RadioShack announced that both Horner and Leipheimer would be co-leaders. “Levi is the three-time champion and without a doubt I was working for him but on the Sierra climb the legs were good,” Horner stated “If you look at the tape you’ll see I always made room for Levi and he’s still the protected leader going into the time trial with him as a big favorite. There will be no holding back. I’ve got some good form and I can handle a time trial too. Maybe we’ll go 1-2.”
When asked about his TT legs, Horner responded, “I have been known to win a couple TT’s. I will feel confident I am sure.”
The team reported that Leipheimer was happy for Horner. “Chris was by far the best today and we have shown what a Team we are. This is all good for Team RadioShack.”
Horner acknowledged that throughout his career he has been overlooked and ignored. “I think in my career I’ve been under appreciated, certainly when you arrive here at the Tour of California,” added Horner. “I found it quite insulting not to be invited to the press conference. I think I have been underrated many times in my 16 years as a professional rider. The last few years my form has been the best with the best in the world and with the exception of Alberto Contador I think there isn’t anybody who can drop me,” concluded Horner.